A 10-year-old autistic student at the Okeechobee Achievement Academy was arrested by county deputies on April 12, 2017, for an allegedly battering an educational assistant at his school back in October. The boy's parents were blindsided upon hearing of his arrest, given that they were never made aware of any outstanding felony warrant for his arrest.
The young boy, in mid-October, had begun having disciplinary problems. They started with him accusing an educational aide at his school of hurting him because he wouldn't provide him the necessary support to do his work. Although the aide allegedly committed to helping the boy more, it was later reported that the student pinched the aide in retaliation. The aide denied the incident occurring.
However, in a later incident chronicled in the probable cause affidavit in the case, it is alleged that the aide was scratched, kicked and punched by the student while attempting to put him in time out for disruptive classroom behavior some days later. Despite the many allegations waged, at no point did the school make any offer to assign a new aide despite many requests that were made by the boy and his parents.
Although originally charged with a third-degree felony, the Okeechobee county prosecutor, in meeting with the aide, decided she will instead offer the young defendant in this case an opportunity to be punished via some type of nonjudicial sanction instead. She noted this might include some type of counseling or the provision of some other type of rehabilitative services.
As for the mother's response to the prosecutor's offer, she argues that her son's actions do not meet the standard of needing to be addressed through a criminal diversion program. Instead, she believes school district officials need to learn more about autism and how to address students with the disability.
If the boy agrees to participate in and fulfills the requirements of the diversion program, then his permanent record won't reflect his arrest nor any type of conviction. The defendant in this case is expected in court on May 11 for his arraignment.
Charges of battery, assault or some other type of crime can carry stiff penalties if not addressed using a strategic mode of defense. If you've been charged with a felony in Shalimar, Florida, a criminal defense attorney can advise you of your rights.
Source: The Washington Post, "'I don't like to be touched': Video shows 10-year-old autistic boy getting arrested at school," Lindsey Bever, April 21, 2017